“I am a winemaker. Not a shepherd or a steward.” Sine Qua Non founder Manfred Krankel spoke those words during the third day of Wine Spectator‘s New World Wine Experience, and I started clapping. Then I realized I was the only person clapping in a room packed with 800 people and sheepishly stopped. I shouldn’t have.

The Wine Experience is Wine Spectator‘s annual gathering of the best winemakers in the world for three days of tasting, talking and having fun. The whole weekend provides a chance to discover some great terroirs—you can taste wines from more than 200 wineries, often from regions you’ve never tried—and chat with the people behind the wines. The winemaker or owner is often the one pouring. It’s a chance to learn from some of the best.

But I often feel like people who work in wine (or write about it) like to pretend that winemakers don’t actually matter.

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Exploring wine with Mitch Frank of the Wine Spectator